Monday, October 27, 2014


Multiple Translations

Paul Barolsky, "Dante's Infernal Fart and the Art of Translation," Arion 22.1 (Spring/Summer 2014) 93-101 (at 93-94):
In a recent review of translations of Dante's Inferno by Clive James and Mary Jo Bang (and of Dan Brown's novel of the same name) the formidable critic and polymath Joan Acocella suggested that there are by her count "something like a hundred English-language translations" of the Divine Comedy. Although I have been collecting English translations of Inferno for the last forty years or so, somewhat haphazardly, I admit, I am far behind her in my reckoning. I have in my collection only about thirty translations and I am ignorant of those I am missing. Even so, I find much to learn from the numerous translations I do have at hand. To overstate a point, I have never met a translation of the Inferno I did not like—for one reason or another.

Back in the 1970s when the Charlottesville Dante Society met regularly to discuss Inferno, we always had with us, in addition to the original, the translations of Sinclair, Singleton, Ciardi, and Sayers. As we pondered the text, we discovered at various junctures that no single translation seemed to suffice, that each of our translators offered us something distinctive. Our understanding of what we were reading was enriched by multiple translations. There were many possibilities.

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